After 14 years of struggle, the Reproductive Health Bill has finally been passed into law! Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III quietly signed the bill into law last December 21, 2012, four days away before Christmas – for me the best Christmas gift for Filipino women and youth especially us RH advocates who were tireless in our efforts to lobby, dialogue, march on the streets and campaign for the passage of the RH Bill into a law. The new law will now be called as Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health of 2012.
Owing to the controversy of the law, the Office of the President only confirmed it today after persistent rumors were circulated widely in the internet. The road for passing the RH Law was not easy. Strong opposition coming from the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has long delayed the passage of the law. Way back then, legislators from Congress and Senate under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were dominated by conservative Anti-RH representatives.
A few like Representatives Edcel Lagman and Janette Loreto-Garin in Congress and Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago have continued the fight despite of the overwhelming hostility of their peers to the RH Bill. Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo herself promoted an abstinence-only program during her 9-year tenure as president. Ever since I was involved with RH advocacy back in 2009, I have observed that our movement has grown bigger and stronger. Young people have become more involved and have since been in the forefront of the movement.
Women especially mothers have aired out their concerns of having a limited options for them in status quo. The deaths of 11 Filipino women a day due to pregnancy and child birth complications according to UNFPA makes the bill a necessity if not urgent. Celebrities like Tony Award winning actress Lea Salonga, singer songwriter Jim Paredes, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, reality-show actors Tom Rodriguez and Princess Lieza Manzon, and even enlightened Catholic priest like Fr.
Joaquin Bernas have lent their name and prestige in promoting awareness and discourse on the issues of the RH Bill. The administration of President Aquino bolstered our hopes that the bill will become a law when at the very start of his election campaign; he promised that he will support the RH Bill. Although there were times when he seems to be bowing to the pressure of the Catholic Church, his determination to deliver his election promises equaled with our vigilance to hold him accountable to his promises triumphed at the end of the day.
It would be the second time in Philippine history that the government defied the Catholic Church since the Rizal Law which makes me feel happy that a government like President Aquino can stand up for the general good and welfare of the Filipino people. Not talking about the Anti-RH does not give justice to the struggles and the gain we had right now. I admire their equal eagerness for the RH Bill NOT to become a law. They have their own reasons to oppose the bill and I respect it. Some of it may sound absurd just like how Senator Sotto reasoned out that “since we ban plastics, why are we legalizing condoms”.
In a controversial measure like RH Bill, we have expected a lot of opposition to it. Although opposition to the bill can be a major obstacle, we welcome them because it sparks discourse and intellectual discussion which benefits the people at the end of the day for it guides them in making their own informed decision. Women willpower: RH sponsors Rep Janette Garin (1D, Iloilo) and Sen Pia Cayetano hold a copy of the reconciled version of the RH BILL following the latter’s adoption by the bicameral conference committee on the last day of session last week.
Photo taken on December 19, 2012 at the Senate plenary. Courtesy of Senator Pia Cayetano’s Facebook Page. At the end of the day, an inevitable showdown of numbers happened. Last December 12-13, the members of the House of Representatives having reached a quorum decided to vote on whether or not to terminate the Period of Amendments for the bill and pass it for the Second Reading. Pro-RH gained the needed 109 votes to pass the bill for second reading during the first round of voting.
A close fight ensued as the second round of voting was declared. With 113 votes for the RH, 104 against, and 4 abstain the bill was passed for Second Reading. Finally, on December 17, both Senate and House of Representatives voted in their respective chambers with 13-8 in the Senate in favor of the bill and 133-79-7 in the House of Representatives in favor also of the bill. Then a Bicameral Conference Committee convened to reconcile the RH Bill versions of the two chambers of Congress.
After its ratification, it was presented to the President for his signature. At this point, even if Mr. Aquino does not sign it, it will become law after 15 days. By the way, it may not be the perfect RH Law that one aspires about because of some compromises that it had to give such as teaching Comprehensive Sexuality Education not compulsory in private schools among others but hey, it is still an achievement. Priority is given to teaching it to public schools where the bulk of students go to get their education. We can remedy that.
What is more important right now is to be involve in crafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Law which will serve as guide on how the law will be implemented and of course, the full implementation of the law when it take effect. After celebrating our RH Law victory, let’s move forward and act for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill and the Freedom of Information Act in the Philippines! Belmonte to SC: Voiding RH law a veto on people’s will APPEAL. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr warns the SC against declaring the RH law as unconstitutional.
File photo by Rappler MANILA, Philippines – Declaring the reproductive health (RH) law as unconstitutional would be “a veto against the will of majority of our people. ” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr issued this statement on Tuesday, February 11, amid reports that the Supreme Court law is likely to declare the RH law unconstitutional. The SC decision on the case “would have deep and far-reaching implications for the country,” Belmonte warned. “Remember that we have 289 House members who are individuals representing a broad spectrum of society,” the Speaker said.
“They are representatives directly elected to articulate what majority of their constituents want. Therefore, the resulting law is a product of this painstaking process and is a democratic compromise. ” The controversial measure took over 13 years to pass. After rigorous debates that lasted until the late hours of the evening, Congress finally approved the historic bill in 2012 despite lobbying from the Catholic Church. Soon after President Benigno Aquino III signed it into law, a total of 15 petitions questioning its constitutionality was lodged before the Supreme Court by mostly Catholic groups.
Justices ended oral arguments for the RH law in August 2013, but Belmonte said the arguments raised during the SC debates had already been addressed in the debates in Congress. “Each of these views have already been openly taken up numerous times before enactment and yet [the measure] has now become a law. Therefore, the anti-RH argument is now a minority view. We must therefore respect the desire of the majority which is to exercise their freedom of choice,” Belmonte said. (READ: SC ends RH law arguments; what happens now?)
The two biggest debates in the Supreme Court over the RH law revolved around two questions: Are contraceptives abortifacients? And, is there a need for the law? Belmonte said the law “clearly states” that having an abortion is illegal, noting that the final decision on the issue must be based on legality and not on morality. “We must remember that Congress is tasked not with being judges of morality, but with safeguarding the legal rights of our people,” he said. Hontiveros to SC: Don’t let families wait IMPLEMENT RH LAW.
Raquel Villanueva, one of the mothers who supported the passage of RH law, said the SC should not stop its implementation. MANILA, Philippines – A senatorial candidate asked the Supreme Court on Monday, March 25 to lift the status quo ante order it issued stopping the implementation of the controversial reproductive health law. Former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros – who is part of the senatorial slate of the Liberal Party – filed a motion for reconsideration on the status quo ante order, which would take effect for 120 days, or 4 months.
The SC voted 10-5 on March 19 to stop the government from implementing the RH law, which funds the distribution and promotion of contraceptives. Hontiveros filed the motion days before the derailed RH law was supposed to take effect on March 31, or on Easter Sunday. Lawyer Ibarra Gutierrez III, Akbayan nominee for partylist representative in the 2013 midterm elections, said the RH law should still be implemented even as the SC has yet to rule on its legality. He said Republic Act 10354 or the RH law – like any other law passed by Congress – enjoys the presumption of constitutionality. DON’T LET US WAIT.
Risa Hontiveros (center) asks SC to lift status quo ante order on the RH law implementation. He stressed that in the case of the RH law, it took 15 years before Congress passed it in 2012. Hontiveros said that the implementing rules and regulations of the law were also crafted in consultation with different civil society groups and stakeholders. “It is respectfully submitted that these Implementing Rules and Regulations… must be taken into account by this Honorable Supreme Court in determining whether the Status Quo Ante Order is appropriate at this time,” Hontiveros said in the motion.
Gutierrez added they are ready to face the SC when it conducts the oral arguments on the case on June 18. Hontiveros said that contrary to the arguments of the anti-RH petitioners, RA 10354 does not limit the free exercise of religion. Stopping the implementation of the RH law based on religious beliefs alone would in fact lead to the imposition of the same beliefs on everyone else, she said. (READ: SC stops RH law implementation) She added that the RH law also does not undermine the Filipino family.
“In fact, by giving Filipino families, whatever their circumstances and economic status, the ability to make informed choices about their family life as well as the ability to act on those choices, RA 10354 strengthens the family as a basic, autonomous, social institution,” she said in her motion. She said the petitioners also ignored the fact the RH law does not legalize abortion. The text of the law even expressly prohibits it. The motion also noted that the SC only acts on actual controversies.
Hontiveros said the petitioners have yet to show that they were “adversely” affected by the law. (READ: Spiritually pro-RH) On the contrary, she said the suspension of the law will cause a “permanent” and “lasting” harm to mothers and children. “The suspension can cause irreparable harm to a vulnerable section of our population. As reported by the Department of Health, lack of access to reproductive health services is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. This harm cannot be reversed,” she said. Supreme Court: Order vs RH law stays IMPLEMENT RH LAW.
Raquel Villanueva, one of the mothers who supported the passage of RH law, said the SC should not stop its implementation. MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 2, junked a motion that sought to have the controversial reproductive health law implemented despite unresolved legal questions over its constitutionality. The SC, voting 10-4, denied for lack of merit a motion filed by former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros which asked for the lifting of the status quo ante order issued by the High Court on March 19 against the law. (Read: Hontiveros to SC: Don’t let families wait).
The 10 justices who voted to dismiss Hontiveros’ motion are: Presbitero Velasco Jr, Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr. , Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, and Bienvenido Reyes. Those who agreed with Hontiveros are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen and Mariano del Castillo. On leave is Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe. The SC voted 10-5 to stop the government from implementing the RH law, which funds the distribution and promotion of contraceptives. It’s a landmark law that took more than a decade of congressional debates to pass.
The order will take effect for 120 days. The SC is set to hold oral arguments on the case in June. Hontiveros – who is part of the senatorial slate of the Aquino government – said the RH law should be implemented already, however, as every legislative measure passed by Congress enjoys the presumption of constitutionality. Hontiveros told the Court that contrary to the arguments of the anti-RH petitioners, RA 10354 does not limit the free exercise of religion. Stopping the implementation of the RH law based on religious beliefs alone would in fact lead to the imposition of the same beliefs on everyone else, she said.
Reacting to the Court’s latest decision, Hontiveros said: “It is disappointing. I still maintain that the immediate implementation of the law does not pose any concrete damage to the constitutional rights of any individual. The suspension, however, reinforces a status quo where 11 women die everyday due to lack of access to reproductive health services. ” She added: “The RH law is a tool against ignorance, one that causes death and exposes our youth to various risks. We could have stopped this climate of ignorance that has imperiled our youth for several generations now.
” The law is staunchly opposed by the Catholic Church, which is leading a campaign against lawmakers who support the law and are running for senatorial and local posts in the May mid-term elections. Reproductive Health Law Enacted in the Philippines It is with great pride that we at the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) shares with you the newly enacted Reproductive Health Law in the Philippines, REPUBLIC ACT NO. 10354, AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A NATIONAL POLICY ON RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH.
As we celebrate the passage of the RH Bill into law, we would like to congratulate Hon. Cong. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the bill, Deputy Secretary General of AFPPD and Chairman of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development. The AFPPD’s National Committee in the Philippines, PLCPD with its active member legislators, untiringly championed the passage of the RH bill in the last 14 years. On behalf of the regional network of National Committees on population and development, AFPPD warmly commends PLCPD for this milestone.
We also recognize the invaluable contribution of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) whose support to parliamentarian advocacy has strengthened and empowered Parliamentarian champions in the Philippine Congress. And lastly, our sincere gratitude to all the Members of Parliament in the Asia-Pacific region, partners, CSOs and other stakeholders who have been with us in this quest. The enactment of the RH Law is a huge leap of the Philippines towards achieving its commitment to the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action (ICPD PoA).
Many families, women and children in the country will now have a better quality of life. Philippines’ reproductive health law here – now what? MANILA, 20 mars 2013 (IRIN) – After a publicly contentious 14-year battle, legislators quietly signed the Philippines’ first reproductive health law in late December. It was expected to take effect by the end of March, but on 21 March the Supreme Court halted its implementation, issuing a 120-day status quo ante to review court challenges.
“We were already expecting these petitions, but not the status quo ante which is equivalent to a TRO [temporary restraining order],” Edcel Lagman, a parliamentarian and one of the chief authors of the law, told IRIN, echoing activists’ realization of just how difficult it will be to roll out reproductive health services. On 8 March in the capital at the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Reproductive Health Law (IRR-RH), 16-year-old Michelle Custodio said she had suffered two miscarriages in the last two years.
If it were not for the free birth control pills she received from a local women’s centre, she would “surely have gotten pregnant again” she said. In Manila, the country’s largest city with nearly two million residents, a local ordinance banning condoms, birth control pills and other forms of contraception was passed in 2000. Since then public health clinics have promoted only what is known as “natural” family planning, which calls for abstinence during a woman’s peak days of fertility, and for avoiding any drugs or sterilization to prevent pregnancy.
“If I can enjoy this [reproductive health] service for free, then all women should be able to. Now that the RH [reproductive health] law has been passed, RH will be the right of every Filipino, especially those who are poor,” Custodio said. The promise of the hard-fought law is free access to reproductive health services – including contraception – for all, but the reality, Custodio and other activists fear, is that honouring that pledge will take more time than women – and their families – can afford. Youth provision questioned.
During recent public consultations convened by the Department of Health, RH advocates’ sense of accomplishment was overshadowed by what they saw as the law’s imperfections, and continued resistance to the law. Youth leaders questioned a provision that requires minors to present written parental consent before receiving public RH services. “What teen would ask their parents’ permission to get RH services? That would be tantamount to admitting they are sexually active,” said Alexis Sarza, founder of BALUTI, a local NGO that provides RH counselling and services to mostly abandoned street children.
“These are the kids who are prostituted or are sexually active. What do we do then for them? ” he asked. But Junice Melgar, executive director of Likhaan Women’s Health Care and a member of the IRR drafting committee composed of both governmental and non-governmental members, said access will be unhampered. “The provision does not apply to RH information, which can be freely given [and applies] just to services in public healthcare clinics. Patients can be referred [by public healthcare officials] to private institutions and NGOs,” said Melgar.
Other groups expressed concern that the search for discreet care will slow efforts to lower the country’s teen pregnancy rate, which increased by 65 percent from 2000-2010, according to the government’s most recent Family Health Survey. The survey attributed the increase to the lack of adolescent-friendly RH services and information. Unmet contraceptive need As early as 2009, local health experts predicted the country’s Millennium Development Goal of lowering the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to 53-55 per 100,000 live births was unachievable.
With a reproductive law now in place – though stalled – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona is more optimistic. “We should see an impact on MMR already by end of the year. By 2016, we are targeting that MMR will be lowered to 53 per 100,000,” Ona told IRIN. However, family planning funds are “meagre” and only a fraction of what is needed, said NGO director Melgar and IRR drafting committee member. The DOH 2012 budget for family planning supplies was about US$13. 4 million.
“If you compare it to the unmet need for contraception, we need a budget of $75 million to provide for the contraceptive needs of 10 million women,” said Melgar, referring to a 2009 estimate from the US-based reproductive health centre, Guttmacher Institute, of the number of Filipinas who need contraception, but cannot get it. Tangle of local laws With the country’s decentralization of governance, implementation of national laws is the responsibility of the village level under the supervision of autonomous local government units (LGU).
When the RH law had yet to be passed, LGUs – such as Manila – drafted their own local RH ordinances, which promoted only natural family planning. While the new national RH law, when enacted, will repeal such local ordinances, women’s groups are uncertain how long it will take to phase out restrictive, contradictory local laws. “I think the first step is to go back to the communities and really educate the women about the RH law. They need to know what their rights are under this law,” said Beth Angsioco, chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP).
One of those rights is to report any violations of the RH law which may be penalized by imprisonment of one to six months and a fine of up to $2,500. Catholic Church And, then there is the Catholic Church, which has long opposed the RH law – and continues to do so. In Cebu, the second largest city after Manila, churchgoers are being asked to sign an anti-RH pledge as part of a voter education campaign for the upcoming May local elections. Photo: Ana Santons/IRIN Signed, sealed — just not delivered In the southern province of Bacolod, the local diocese has hung tarpaulins
outside their churches pitting anti-RH against pro-RH legislators, calling the former “Team Life” and the latter “Team Dead”. Lagman, the law’s co-author, said he will file a petition for intervention so he may defend the law’s constitutionality before the court. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on a dozen petitions filed by religious and faith-based groups questioning the law’s constitutionality, arguing that it undermined the family as the fundamental social unit (as described in the constitution) and that public funds should not be used to buy contraceptives.
“I’m very firm that the RH Law is constitutional. We won this battle in both the senate and congress. The four-month wait is temporary. Advocates waited 14 years for this law to be passed. We will get through another four months,” Lagman said. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin on 18 June – three months too late for Pia Cayetano, a senator and sponsor of the law. “How many lives will be lost during this period? How many more mothers will die of birth complications? While we wait, it is the poor who will suffer,” said Cayetano.
Reproductive Health Law in the Philippines: A Conclusion to a Decade-long Crusade Finally in 2012, the controversial Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill) has been resurrected and made into a law after ten to fourteen years of being stuck in legislation. The crusade has thrust like a sword in the heart of Philippine society. Naturally, opinions were divided as binary opposites again: on the one side, conservatives mostly coming from the Christian society; and on the other, liberals and leftists.
It was the first time in more than a decade that the RH Bill legislation has re-gained its infamous limelight. Hospitable, happy-go-lucky and conservative – these adjectives are the stereotypical descriptions to refer to Filipinos. When the RH Bill legislation was again revitalized last 2012 in congress, it was like the bomb that has paralyzed Manila during the Second World War. Philippine society, as the world knows it, is the home to extreme conservatives of the Roman Catholic orientation.
The periods of colonization that slaughtered yet strengthened the country has imbibed the need for a religion that will manifest material salvation. Of course, the advanced capitalist stage has allowed cultural changes in the country – and by that younger generation has adapted popular culture from capitalist countries such as the United States, Great Britain, and Italy with their Asian counterparts such as Japan and South Korea. But religious fanaticism is an indispensable framework that cannot be eliminated as of the current politico-economic stage.
By that, the revitalization of the RH Bill has divided opinions around the country. It is out of the question that conservatives deny the provision, as Judas has denied Jesus in the Bible, because of the threat that abortion may become legal. The pro-RH Bill defenders claim that the provision is only pro-choice in child-bearing, especially from the point of view of women. The RH Bill has been made into a law, as signed by President Benigno Aquino III last December 21, 2012: “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012” or the Republic Act No.
10354. The essential gist of the provision aims to provide a legitimate venue or a Rule of Law in which a typical Filipino family may access basic social services, choices in child-rearing and information. In a feminist point of view, this law is passed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of women on family-rearing. The essence of the RH Law is pro-choice, pro-family, pro-poor and pro-women’s rights. Unlike the claim of the conservatives, the RH Law is not made to legitimize abortion.
Ironically, it prevents the situation when abortion may be possible. It is the lack of a pro-choice law that creates the series of abortions in the country, coupled with the loosely-conservative thinking in child-bearing. Notwithstanding the advantages of the RH Law, there are cautionary measures in this rookie of a law – one in which is the danger of contraceptive commercialization that may occur had the current administration not provide public spending for the concrete implementation of this law.
For instance, because of the Public-Private Partnership paradigm that the current administration adapts, there is a danger that capitalists may invest on the contraceptives, thereby limiting public access especially for the poor. This would defeat the objectives of the RH Law altogether. In other words, the real challenge is the actuality of the RH Law. The twists and turns of its implementation is only child’s play. The rougher road has only begun.